April 3, 2009 in Nation/World

Palestinian with pickax kills West Bank teenager

Sebastian Scheiner Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Israelis react in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Bat Ayin on Thursday after an ax-wielding Palestinian went on a rampage, killing a 13-year-old Israeli boy and wounding a 7-year-old.
(Full-size photo)

BAT AYIN, West Bank – A Palestinian killed an Israeli teenager with a pickax and seriously injured a 7-year-old boy in a rampage through this West Bank Jewish settlement Thursday, posing an early test for the country’s new hard-line government.

Israeli media broadcast pictures of the body of 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ, bespectacled with long sidecurls and a large skullcap worn by observant Jews. The images also showed the red pickax on the ground with drops of blood splattered on a road.

The attacker escaped the scene and Israeli troops, joined by bearded settlers armed with automatic rifles, were conducting a manhunt in the area. In the nearby Palestinian village of Safa, troops searched houses and rounded up residents in a schoolyard. The military said all roads around the settlement of Bat Ayin were closed.

The settlement is notorious in Israel for being the base of the so-called “Bat Ayin Underground,” whose members were arrested over a botched 2002 bombing on an Arab girls’ school in Jerusalem. The wounded boy’s father, a member of the underground, is currently serving a 15-year sentence for his involvement in that bombing attempt.

Avinoam Maymon, a 45-year-old resident of the extremist settlement, said he tried to stop the assailant after the attack, violently struggling with him for a minute or two.

“He tried to kill me. I grabbed his hand and took the ax and he escaped,” he told the Associated Press.

He said the attacker fled to a neighboring “murderous village.”

The attacker apparently entered Bat Ayin, located between Jerusalem and the southern West Bank city of Hebron, unhindered. The religious settlers have refused to build a security fence around their community – standard practice in most settlements – saying it would be a sign of weakness.

The attack came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office and will likely heighten tensions with the Palestinians. The leader of the hawkish Likud Party has promised a firm hand against militants and lowered expectations on the prospects for peace.

A murky Palestinian militant group calling itself the Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh claimed responsibility for the attack in an e-mail sent to the AP.

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